What does the soul of a people sound like?
I dunno, but I bet you're going to tell us, with a stereotype-density ratio that could collapse the knees of a Strongman competitor in six seconds flat.
With the Germans, you have adequate proof; Wagner spoke for them, for better or worse – grandeur and myth that elevated the soul as easily as it rotted to the soundtrack for a meglomaniacal death cult.
Soul of the Germans: sounds like NAZIS! Check.
Italian music – well, no one ever marched off to war to Respighi’s ode to a peacock. Music for life, lived without lasting consequence. (They did their part in the Roman times; they’ve earned a nap.)
Soul of the Italians: sounds lazy, frivolous, lusty. Check.
French music is best expressed by the gauzy wash of Debussy and his comrades, music that doesn’t confront the ear but gently appeases it.
Soul of the French: sounds like pussy-ass appeasement junkies. Double-check.
Russian music has that delicious third-drink moodiness.
Soul of the Russians: sounds drunk! Check and re-check.
Canadian music – no such thing, really, which is telling. Unless you define it as American style music recorded in a Canadian studio to satisfy a government requirement.
Soul of the Canadians: doesn't exist, as far as I can bother to find out, and if it did, it would sound like a second-rate imitation of America, with added stifling socialist bureaucracy. Check, check, and check!
America: cheerful tootling Souza marches or great broad optimistic Copeland yawps. Or jazz. Or rock and roll. Or country twangs. (It’s not that we have no sound – we have many, and each is as much a part of us as the other. Few cultures can pull that off.)
He's right, you know. What other culture in the world could lay claim to as many as five different musical styles? God bless us every one!
(Here I'm cutting a bunch of worthless vaporing about how the soul of Mighty Olde England is embodied in the music of Gustav "The One-Hit Wonder of Neoclassicist Modernism" Holst, and how all of the music that embdies the national character of England is ancient [Lileks seems to believe that Holst was a contemporary of Mozart or something], and how they've sold off their sacred cultural roots for a handful of magic multicultural beans.)
Countries have national memories, national traits, but they’ve always been based in a certain amount of ethnic homogeneity. (To put it mildly. For Europe, nationalism was tribalism.)
Man, true again! What could possibly define Europe in general and England in particular more than ethnic homogeneity? YOUR FACTS ARE WELL-GRASPED, THERE, JIM!
If you've moved beyond this, then what sort of core identity emerges after a great shock? What do you rise to defend?
I dunno, your life? I'm just blue-skying here.
It is possible that a multiethnic society can unify along the lines of national identity; America proves that.
But our foundational concepts are different. We’re the only true transnational country, inasmuch as our ideas are infinitely applicable. Our ethnic complexity began with refugees from all points of Europe, which is different from basing your national identity on beef-eating tars from Wales, Scotland, and assorted shires.
Yes, who can forget the broad ethnic diversity of America in its founding years, which included not only British, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people, but some Manxmen and a handful of English-speaking Dutch and Frenchmen? Plus slaves.
Our ideals surpass ethnic identity, which is why a recent immigrant can get a lump in his throat when he hears the national anthem. Does someone who came to London last year from the West Indies respond on an elemental level to Holst like a fellow whose mum told him stories of the Blitz?
I bet the answer is no. Only America can make people really appreciate being in a new and better world.
I don’t know, but I doubt it. At some point the old legacy culture is unbellyfeel to the newcomer. This puts Great Britain in an unusual position – its cultural heritage is more specifically ethnic, which makes it difficult to apply to other cultures, and its new self-definition as a melting pot means it has fewer means to unite the culture to face a specific threat.
And, of course, the five centuries of cultural colonialism from the West Indies to the Pacific Rim engaged in by the British Empire did nothing, nothing to inculcate their culture into generations of ethnic others. Only Americans get to export their values and culture, because we have better distribution.
In the beginning, America was next England; in the end, England ends up as the next America. And gets bombed for it. Some believe that England was already America, inasmuch as both were ruled by fiendish quazi-nazis who tossed their nations into a war for grins and giggles.
Whew! I was wondering how long I'd have to wait for the gratuitous liberal-bashing.
Surely one of the bombers was an ordinary Iraqi who lived a peaceable life – well, aside from the time that Qusay’s men came by, took his daughter, returned her the next day as a broken heap who died from a vaginal hemorrage, and aside from the time when his brother was thrown off a roof because someone said he had turned his portrait of Saddam to the wall - surely it was the invasion that made this ordinary man take the understandable step of moving to London to kill commuters.
If we just keep reminding ourselves over and over and over again how bad a man was Saddam Hussein, it will make the whole war worthwhile. He WAS a bad man. He WAS. And that's all that should matter.
(Here I'm cutting a bunch of deceptive boilerplate about how bad Saddam Hussein was, and how this whole war is the terrorists' fault and not America's, and how if we hadn't invaded Iraq then Saddam would be "having weekly meetings with Zarkawi", and how unnamed liberal hippie peaceniks seem to think that if it weren't for us, all the terrorists would have become chiropractors or botanists.)
There will always be this music in someone’s soul somewhere – and at least in in that simple sense, there will always be an England.
Aaaaaaaaand there's the most predictably cliched ending ever, delivered entirely without shame, and we're out!